Traveling with a baby: about my trip to Machu Picchu with my 4-month-old

Guest post by Emily George
Emily and Jude! Photo by Daniel Payne.

I recently traveled to Machu Picchu with a few friends and my son, who was four months old at the time. Everyone thought I was crazy for taking him. I am not sure what they were afraid of… malaria? Too high. Water-borne illness? Breastfeeding. Ear pain on the flight? Exaggerated. Consistent nap time? Overrated. It was during this time that I realized that children are extremely adaptable. It is adults who are not.

I consider myself a well-traveled individual and feel that every year, I become more laid back and easy going while exploring new regions. However, it was on this trip as I traveled with my infant that I felt like I graduated to an entirely new level of flexibility and adaptability. It was a wonderful experience and I wanted to share a few things with those who would love to travel with children, but have not had the ambition to do so (yet!).

For starters, do not listen to people (family, books, American culture) who tell you that having children will and should slow you down or that it is too hard to travel with them. Again, children are adaptable. You can be, too. It’s okay if they skip a nap or two. It’s okay if they fall asleep in your arms on a long train ride or at a restaurant and not in a crib. It’s okay if strangers kiss them. It’s okay if they get a little sunburned. It’s okay if you have to wash out a poopie outfit in a makeshift sink and then put the dirty outfit and diaper back onto your child. It’s okay if they eat a little dirt. Sometimes these things can cause a problem, but those times are the exceptions and not the rule. For the most part, you can relax. They will be perfectly fine. They will be more than fine.

Secondly, put in invisible earplugs when people around you are trying to offer you unsolicited advice about how to soothe your child if they are crying. I’m not sure why, but a crying baby is the absolute worst thing to many people and they will begin saying the most outrageous things to you in effort to “help” you. And they are yelling these things to you over your screaming child as if you can hear them. As if this is a really good time to offer advice. And the advice itself is atrocious. These are the moments that you want to punch someone’s lights out. But, don’t let them break you. Just smile and nod and walk quickly away, even if they chase you. (Which happens.)

Finally, traveling with a baby is a community event. It brings out the “it takes a village” moments. I’ve always traveled solo, iPod on, nose in a book, not making conversation with the people sitting next to me. Those days are over. Jude was always inviting people to our party with his smiles and coos. And I needed it. Let people help you. It’s a beautiful thing. I was amazed by how many people, men and women, who would volunteer to hold Jude so I could use the restroom or stretch my legs. They carried him, they carried my bags, they held my beverage. Babies evoke so much sensitivity and pleasure. I never got any angry looks when he was fussy, either, just encouraging words, like, “You’re doing a good job. Hang in there. He’ll be fine. Don’t let it stress you out.” The entire experience made me feel at one with my fellow man.

In conclusion, don’t put your dreams of far-off places on hold because of your children. Integrate them into those dreams. I could have waited to see Machu Picchu until after Jude was older, when I could have left him with family, but it was such a joy to have him there. We created the most amazing memories. It was one of the best travel experiences I’ve had. I want his earliest memories to be of seeing people and places that are different than the way we live our daily lives. It’s good for him. It’s good for me. I believe one of the best things you can give your child is an adventurous life with exposure to various cultures. So, apply for that passport and make it happen.

Comments on Traveling with a baby: about my trip to Machu Picchu with my 4-month-old

  1. This is a great post. I do have trouble traveling with my son (infancy was much easier for getting around than later and toddler years) and he does have problems with napping now; alas, no more toting him around in the pouch and having him fall asleep on my chest.

    But I experienced the wonderful help and friendliness of many people while traveling pregnant in South America (which some folks back home had tried to talk me out of — I went to safe places though).

  2. excellent post!! beautifully written and full of spirit. what a great encouragement you are to moms and dads everywhere who wish to teach their kids how to live life to the fullest.

  3. This is a great post, but I wish there were more articles about traveling with older kids. When my son was a baby, it was easy. Once he turned three… Forget it.

    • This past summer I took my son with me to Germany for two weeks and it was an awesome experience. He was four and I was 4 months pregnant with kiddo #2, and it turned out to be such an amazing trip and I’m so glad we did it because it is something we will remember forever.

    • I have to agree. taking a baby or an older child is one thing, but a toddler…? I have an 8-month-old myself and could totally see traveling with him, but there were two tots (2-3 years old) on our plane when my husband and I were flying back from Turkey not long ago. The parents were clearly tourists, and I could NOT understand why they thought it was a good idea to subject their kids to a 12 hour flight in coach. The poor kids screamed THE ENTIRE FLIGHT, sometimes tag-teaming to give each other a break. Of course I felt terrible for the parents, but really?! It was pretty terrible for all of us who couldn’t sleep as well. Some travel may be okay, but some things just aren’t a good idea.

  4. Thank you so much for this post! I’m currently pregnant with my first and it’s nice to read about wanderlusters like myself. I have no plans to drastically change the way I live my life. Now I’ll just have a little buddy to adventure with.

    • There are definitely many parents out there who have been traveling with their now much older kids since infancy. I do think toddler-hood is its own special breed of The Crazy, but traveling with toddlers can totally be done! My husband took our son (then 2 1/2) on a trip to D.C. last year for four days.. maybe I’ll get him to write something! We also have traveled around with him, though not internationally.

  5. We took our then-one-year old on a two week vacation to the Pacific Northwest last year and he was fabulous. Was he perfect? No. Did he cry? Get dirty? Insert bad thing here? OH yeah. But it was a wonderful trip overall and I would take him again in a heartbeat.

  6. Great great post! so excited to read this post since I’m Peruvian and currently live in Cusco 🙂
    I could relate a lot with everything said, since I traveled solo with my 9mo last summer through Europe by train–it was such a great experience. I have so many funny anecdotes and great pictures of him looking with amazement through the window in train, plane and car rides.
    and the interaction with strangers! even the scariest looking ones would melt and smile at him. amazing what babies can achieve.
    I know he will not remember it when older, but I’m sure he learnt so much that it is engraved on him somehow.

  7. Absolutely sound advice. We plan to take our future babies on a family trip to the Ganges. I can’t imagine not having my babies with us! I love: “It was during this time that I realized that children are extremely adaptable. It is adults who are not.” YES.

  8. LOVE this! We moved from the US to Germany when my son was 9 months old and people told us we were insane. We lived in Germany for 3 years, with intermittent trips between England and Germany to visit my family (I’m British, husband is American). We also traveled a little around the rest of Europe.

    Waiting now, living in Chicago while my husband finishes up his degree and then we’ll be on the move again. I had much more fun traveling with my son than I ever did by myself! Was it harder? Yes at times, but totally worth it.

  9. Brava!

    Our first family trip was at four months (not as exciting as Machu Pichu, we went to visit the grandparents in Ca). These are all very true for that stage of babyhood – it is SO easy to travel with an infant/ baby.

    And my experience is, if you’re used to it, it’s easy to travel at any stage. (During teething or growth spurts is rougher, but honestly that’s rougher anywhere, might as well go somewhere fun during it.)

    I’m just about to do my second solo-with-kid trip back to Ca to visit the grandparents. I’m excited about the traveling part, the only thing I’m nervous about is the sleep deprivation (of being the only parent going – usually my husband does the morning shift). But it’ll be fine. I’ll probably want to go to bed early anyway.

  10. We’re taking our daughter, who will be 15 months at the time, to live in a farmhouse in Normandy for the month of July. We’ll be meeting my sister and her family, a nine year old and six year old, who will be flying from California to meet up with us.

    It is our intention to travel with her as much as we can. We’re in Chicago and she’s already been to both coasts.

    We’re trying to do more now before her plane ticket is a factor! And, I know we’ll have a few rough flights. And some bad days. But we’d have bad days if we never left our living room.

    I need for her to travel. I need for us to travel. This world is big and if she wants to see it all we best get started!

    We do, though, try to honor her routine. We agreed that for the first year her sleep is a priority as she is more cheerful and resilient if most of the time she can sleep when she normally sleeps. It’s ONE YEAR for us. It feels like something worth working around and we’re 10/12 of the way there and she’s a great night sleeper, a wonderful napper, and a great car companion.As she shifts to one nap I imagine that will get even easier.

    Our goal in France is to slow down, not do more so her nap time will be sit on the porch and stare at the sky time.

  11. Loved this post! I wish I were more brave! Don’t kill me for mentioning this, but I am really reminded of Kate Gosselin (it was a guilty pleasure of mine to watch the show). If that woman could take all 8 of her kids (including SIX toddlers) on plane rides and through security and airport bathrooms, then maybe we all can. No matter how you view her or her parenting skills, you have to give it to her for refusing to stay stuck in the house just becuase she had multiples. I’d call that brave for sure.

  12. I am due April 1st with my first baby, and May 16th I am heading to Nova Scotia (from Texas) to perform in Canada’s Community Theater Competition. The show I am in won Nationals in New York last year, and just got invited to perform in Nova Scotia last week. I am a little nervous, but this article was perfectly timed for me!!!!

  13. Hello everyone,

    Thank you for reading and for the amazing anecdotes. I wish you all SENSATIONAL travels with your little ones. Jude is 16-months old now and in his life time, we have gone to Maine, Texas, Missouri (x4), Kansas, Georgia, Washington D.C., and Cape Cod. Both of us are becoming even more flexible with every trip. 🙂

  14. Oh this is perfect. I’m due in August in California, and my brother is getting married in November in Vietnam. I don’t want to miss it, so it’s SO good to know traveling with a baby can be done!

  15. Different strokes for different folks? I totally agree about not holding back on what you want to do with your kid because other people tell you it won’t work out. F them. But as I was reading the “it’s okay if…” list I felt a lot of “yeah I could deal with that, but I don’t want to” Through experimentation with a variety of types of vacations (close/far, short/long, hotel/tent) we’ve found our boundaries for what we can deal with. And then there’s the personality of your child. I feel lucky that my child is a lot less stodgy and more easy going than I am, but I know it’s not the same for everyone, and that these phases come and go.
    And having strategies to make everything easier helps, but in a weird way even that can be exhausting. I am always so glad to be home!

  16. I both love this post and am so jealous that some folks get the chance to travel when their babies are young! Mine is 5 months old and I would LOVE to travel with her, especially internationally…but money constraints have me back working fulltime and I’m afraid I won’t have the chance to go anywhere until she’s past the wearing/non-mobile stage. I do really want to travel with the whole family–it’s the one thing I regret not doing more of as a singleton–and I hope that we can work to save money and plan trips!

  17. Thank you for writing and thank you for posting this story. I was just talking to my husband about summer plans, and I asked best case scenario what would we do? And he said Machu Picchu. Now I have an example of someone who’s done that exact trip with a little one 🙂

  18. Just because I have been curious about this for myself (4 mo preggo): did Jude need his own passport? When does that stuff start? It surely makes no sense to require photos of infants? Thanks!

    • Yes – they need a passport to travel. It’s all about custody issues now. They don’t want anyone leaving the country without authorization from the parent and the passport issue makes it more difficult for a non-custodial parent to do that. We applied as soon as we had our social security# because we flew overseas at 4 months old.

    • Yes, Jude needed a passport. Unfortunately, his dad was in India at the time and needed to send a letter to me that I had to have notarized to actually get his passport. So, take note that BOTH parents have to be present (if they are on the birth certificate) or you have to go through a lot of red tape before they will let you officially take baby out of the country. 🙂 (Thanks for reading and all the best with your pregnancy!)

  19. Thanks for this post! I’ve already flown internationally with my baby (when she was 2-3 months old) to visit my family, and it wasn’t too bad… it was MUCH better on the return flight when I stopped trying to prove anything and simply focused on being as kind to myself as possible. Medicinal chocolate? Check.:) SHE was a lot happier when I stopped worrying about appearing like a supermom to those around me, and she slept most of the overnight flight. I’d definitely do that again! We’re hoping to go to Europe with her this summer, so this was great to hear!

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